Homeward Bound

Chapter 2

          Sakura woke up like a brass orchestra unexpectedly brought back to life the night of final rehearsals.  Up, around, on her feet in an instant with eyes everywhere and weapons out.  Sakura was Ready. To. Fight. 

          Anyone.  Everyone.  Whoever was the cause of this crick in her neck from sleeping on a rock pillow.

          To Sakura's disgust but not her surprise, the only person she could see was Uzumaki Naruto, chest rising and falling in time as he slept serenely against a nearby boulder, and Sakura had a strong intuitive sense that he wasn't the one responsible for the rock pillow.  Or, for that matter, for them being knocked out in the armory for god knows how long.  She eyed him with suspicion, watching his eyelids flutter with frantic dreams.  Probably ones involving ramen, the baka.  His leaf forehead guard was in proper position beneath his bangs, and she could see where a few kunai were hidden beneath his clothes in the usual pockets.  Also, he was snoring slightly.

         Definitely Naruto.  Sakura examined her own body, her own clothes and shinobi weapons.  Definitely me.  Next a three-hundred-and-sixty degree turn in place, following the horizon.  Definitely not Fire Country.

          "Hey, Naruto!"  Not a stirring.

          Argh, I can't believe he's so inattentive!  For a shinobi he's not even aware enough to wake at his own name!   She walked over and smacked him upside the head, adding a bit of chakra energy to her palm for good measure.

          "What what I'm up up up right now!" the boy yelped, hands waving to bat back another smacking.  He noticed Sakura standing above him and blinked at her curiously.  "Sakura-chan.  Good morning."

          Sakura gaped at Naruto in disbelief, and a sweat drop formed on her temple.  Good morning?  He goes unconscious for no reason, wakes up in an unfamiliar place without shelter or foreknowledge, and all that baka can say is GOOD MORNING?!?  With some effort Sakura took a deep breath and swallowed her tongue.  This was not the time to let herself be baited by that idiot.  It was the time, however, to brief him on their situation so they could formulate a plan.  "Naruto," she began.

          "Where are we?"  Alright then, that solves that, she thought.  No need for a briefing after all.  It would have been too short to be fun anyway.

          Naruto  now stood on the rock he'd been sleeping against, earnestly peering at their surroundings with a hand to shade his eyes.  Sakura couldn't decide if he looked excited or annoyed, but finally settled on annoyed.  She was sure the excitement would kick in when he was fully awake.



          "No mountains."


          "No rivers."


          "Just grass.  And little hills."


          "I don't think we're in Fire Country anymore, Sakura-chan."

          "No, Naruto, we're not."

          Sakura, who'd also never left the village until Team 7's visit to Wave Country, had never seen so much grass and brush in her life.  Wherever she turned she could see more of it: greens and yellows tall enough to touch her shoulders in some places, in others as low as her knees, at best.  To the west and south the land was flat and straight and endless; to the north and east there were low, round hills that rose and dipped like ripples in a pond. And every inch, from horizon to horizon, was unrelentingly empty of  human life.

          She glanced at her teammate, and saw him still consuming the view.  With a sigh Sakura left him to it.  He might catch something she hadn't, and besides, there was something right in front of them that interested her more right now.

          The rock that Naruto had slept against and the one that she had slept against were one of nine, arranged in an uneven circle.  Each stone was several feet wide, a bit taller than Sakura's waist, and as flat as a mirror.  Sakura began to get a funny feeling in her stomach, the one that usually popped up when Iruka-sensei gave a surprise quiz without giving them warning earlier of what to study.

          "Naruto, look at these.  No one would see this circle way out here, amongst all this grass."

          Naruto looked, and frowned as well.  "Then how did whoever put us here find it to put us here in the first place?"

          "That's actually... a really good question."